With the counting of Dec 8 showing Congress down, what next for major parties …

So, it turned out that the exit polls that were published soon after the closure of voting on the 4th were wrong, as Congress had been claiming. However, in a twist, the exit polls actually under-estimated the scope to which the Congress seat-share would fall. Who would have predicted the fall of the Congress from the 2008 number of 96 in Rajasthan to the current 21; this is a huge fall. Percentage wise, the fall in Delhi is even greater, with the fall from 43 to a current number of 8 (and even more shocking for the Congress, Sheila Dixit was seen as a natural winner because of apparent development of Delhi and her own image – and she lost by a huge margin to an upstart, one who was not even a career politician). So, while the BJP and AAP were smug to some extent, the Congress should have clearly accepted defeat and tried to move on, at least reassuring its supporters that they would set matters right. On a different note, what does this election mean for the various parties involved:

– AAP (Aam Admi Party): A dream debut for this party. 2 years back this month, after the next round of Anna’s fast fizzled out, it seemed like the movement was dead. And you had the smug and arrogant comments from the politicians claiming that these social activists did not know the ground reality, and the even more arrogant statement: “Parliament is supreme” – Implicit being the statement that nobody else can even suggest making laws. The political situation was a closed group, with the major parties controlling everything, and new parties having to struggle with funds and with the cadre in order to try and even get some votes.
But this did not seem to faze the AAP people. They were already used to working with the people, including in slums and other areas, and given the consistent outrage over many items – bad law and order, a horrible combination of bureaucracy and police to exploit them, the accounts of corruption of the Congress and massive inflation (combined with highly arrogant replies from Congress – so when Kapil Sibal was asked about rising prices, he would be dismissive that this is not the job of the Government), there was a high degree of resentment to be tapped. It was not easy, but they have tapped this resentment and managed to translate some of this into votes, claiming a vote share that almost toppled the Congress. There is still some amount of tapping left, since many of the votes would not have thought that AAP would get the amount that they did, and hence would have voted for somebody else at the last moment.

At the same time, the AAP has raised expectations of transparency, and their willing candidates are an untested lot. Further, they really do not control the reigns of power in Delhi (as yet) and will find it hard to deliver. They have to avoid the corruption that comes with power and ensure that their MLA’s stay involved with people. If they can continue to do this and deliver to some extent by being involved with the public, they can start to tap into votes discontent in many urban and semi-urban pockets all over the country, and start scaring other parties. An equally scary outlook they present to other parties is they work with dealing with people who are frustrated, and so can tap into people across communities, classes and religions. They already delivered a huge blow to the BSP as well by taking away the support from earlier BSP supporters, and also went into the lower economic strata that supported the Congress and yanked a large chunk of this support away (this is an article that seeks to explain the fall of Sheila Dixit).
Further, they have got a lot of press this time, since they are also the unintended beneficiary of every commentator or politicians who recognized that there was a big vote, but who will not want to credit Narendra Modi, so they all start talking about the AAP.

BJP: The BJP did finally pull off what it wanted, and the loss of the Congress in Delhi, MP and Rajasthan was truly impressive. However, at the same time, the scare during counting in Chattisgarh was a bit off-putting, and so was the inability of winning outright in Delhi. This could be because Dr. Harsh Vardhan was brought in late, but those are excuses that the party cannot afford to make. It has to reach a target of around 220 votes to get very near to power, and these were the states where the BJP would expect to be powerful. Modi has to continue to do 3 items:
– Ensure that the cadres are energized and use even the RSS shakas that happen all over the country to form up more support for the BJP such as in Kerala, Orissa and Andhra.
– Keep the momentum going to drum up development in country, sell the idea that Modi will do a lot more development and ensure more jobs with lower inflation and ensure as many seats from Bihar and UP as possible
– Keep a watch out for allies. So they need to get support for alliances with Babulal Marandi, in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, look at what can be done in Orissa, and so on. Also get back seats in Uttarakhand, Himachal, Haryana and so on. Every seat counts.

Congress: This is going to be far tougher. There is a huge amount of resentment at the corruption and price rise, combined with low growth, and the Congress is getting hammered for this. And the citizens have not heard any of the Congress leaders even talk about such issues, so there is a lot of disenchantment. And yet, not even sure whether they are going to learn. Rahul Gandhi says that he turn the party around very quickly, and that is a problem. His comments show that he treats the party as his own possession, and that is yet another problem. The party needs to do an honest introspection, and the word is ‘honest’. If they do an introspection and come up with results that are not liked, they will be put in cold storage till the party is forced to run through another such disaster. At this point of time, it is not part of the basic nature of the Congress to suddenly get out of paralysis, take a hard line on corruption, and so on. But for them to have some chances, they will have to bit the bullet.

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